Our CEO, Javed Khan, shares his thoughts on Srebrenica Memorial Week (5 - 12 July).
It marks the 25th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide in 1995, during which more than 8,000 Muslim Bozniaks, mostly men and boys, were killed and another 30,000 were ‘expelled’.
We can often be complacent in the UK, assuming we are shielded from such atrocities. As a British Pakistani/Kashmiri Muslim, and someone who identifies as politically Black, I truly believe that the UK is one of the best places in the world to be a member of a minority group. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have our own deep injustices to confront.
Since the tragic killing of George Floyd in the USA, the Black Lives Matter movement has captured global attention. We have a unique opportunity now to transform this ‘moment’ into a turning point, where we confront racism in all its forms, at home and abroad, and where we do the hard work needed to make sure we leave a better world for our children.
At Barnardo’s, we’ve been thinking carefully about our own past – we were founded in Victorian Britain at the height of Empire. More importantly, we’ve been reflecting on the present – and what more we can do to tackle institutional racism. We’ve published a Promise and a set of commitments, but we know we have a long way to go. This starts with educating our people, including about White Privilege*, investing specifically in support for improving BAME children’s outcomes, and doing an audit of our partners and suppliers, to see if they reflect our commitment to tackling racism.
The hardest thing to change is always the culture. We want everyone who works for us, everyone who volunteers, everyone who works with us and visits our services and shops, to understand that we’re a charity where equality, diversity and inclusion are not a choice, not an option, but fundamental to everything we believe - no ifs, no buts, no excuses.
It is fitting then the theme for Remembering Srebrenica 2020 is ‘Every Action Matters’ which will encourage everyone to reflect on their own behaviour and choices they take, and to demonstrate that however insignificant it may seem, every action matters, whether positive or negative.
It is this kind of emphasis on self-reflection – as individuals, organisations, communities and countries that is necessary if we are not to consign only genocide to the history books, but institutional racism as well.
Three years ago I visited the site of the Srebrenica massacre with the Lessons From Srebrenica educational programme – run by the charity Remembering Srebrenica. It is hard to overstate the impact of seeing first-hand the site where so much senseless violence and suffering took place.
This week is an opportunity for us all to reflect on what we as individuals can do in our personal and professional lives to show that those who stand up and unite against hatred can make a difference and help put an end to systemic prejudice and racism.
Join me in standing up to hatred and intolerance by taking part in the ‘Every Action Matters Personal Challenge: 11 actions to mark 11 July.
*Not everyone is familiar with the term ‘White privilege’. Very simply, it means not having to deal with racism, including institutional racism, and other structural disadvantages facing people who are not White. What it does not mean is that everyone who is White is ‘privileged’ in the ordinary sense of the word. Many of the children and families we support at Barnardo’s are White and are also vulnerable and disadvantaged, due to poverty and many other factors. However, they do not face the additional challenges faced by people in their situation who are also not White. There are many books, articles and podcasts that explain this in more detail.